Tuesday Book Review: At Home, Bill Bryson

It sounds ridiculous to say ‘I accidentally read a book,’ but hear me out.  I listen to a lot of my current reading via audiobook. This allows me to engage with text whilst I’m driving, cleaning, exercising, etc. For Christmas I was given a pair of Aftershock bone-conduction headphones and I use these for most of my audiobook experiences.  More recently, I’ve changed cars (I now drive a white one!) and this vehicle has bluetooth technology enabled. This means I can get into the car, listening to an audiobook on my headphones, and the technology takes over when I key the ignition and the car starts to play my audiobook through its speakers.   I found this out, wanted to test the whole thing for consistency and the quality of sound reproduction, and ended up using an old copy of At Home as part of the experiment.

Because the book is so damned compelling, I ended up ‘accidentally’ listening to all of it.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life, follows Bill Bryson as he goes around his home, examining each room and its contents, and discussing the history behind each innovation. Bryson is a masterful storyteller and he makes everything in this book sound fascinating. Whether he’s talking about all the death and destruction that are behind the history of the salt and pepper pots on an average dining table; the types of cement that are used to keep house bricks together and how the technology behind this innovation contributed to the construction of the Erie Canal; or how one tenth of the weight of a six year old pillow usually consists of sloughed skin and mite droppings: Bryson always manages to find an interesting angle that humanises the story and makes it incredibly relevant to the reader.

There are so many fun parts to this book.

The construction is based on following Bryson as he goes from room to room, which compartmentalises the narrative into subject-specific areas. A visit to the dressing-room looks at sumptuary laws, the history of clothing, and even discusses those pointless buttons that appear on the cuffs of every suit jacket ever made. Standing in the hall, Bryson reminds us that the original houses occupied by our ancestors were nothing but the hall, and he guides us through an overview of this story.  

Maybe I’m just a Bill Bryson fanboy. Or maybe this is one of those marvels of research that allows us to see the wonderous story behind every item in our modern homes. Either way: I 100% recommend this title.

Tuesday Book Review: The Wilderness

The Wilderness by Nat Whiston

Any story that has a quote from Buffy in the acknowledgements is going to immediately capture my interest.  This one, coming from the twisted imagination of Nat Whiston, with cover art by the multi-talented Ash Ericmore, and coming from the esteemed stable of D&T Publishing, deservedly captured my interest and held it like a kidnap victim.

The story introduces us to Miss Olivia Gellar. Olivia has been having housing problems but the council have sorted her out with emergency accommodation. This is far from an ideal situation but it’s a damned sight better than no accommodation. The only problem is (well, it’s not the only problem – but you get what I mean) Olivia can’t recall how she became homeless.  Worse, when she talks with a friend and asks her to explain how it happened, the friend insists that Olivia is better off not knowing.

The Wilderness is a tense and well-crafted story that delves into a brutal world of abuse. Nat Whiston writes with tight efficiency that shows a serious understanding of what readers want, and she teases us with it like a seasoned professional.

Well worth the read. 

5/5 Stars The Kindle version is available through this link and the Paperback will be available on Amazon on the 28th.

Tuesday Book Review: Sean Hawker

Full disclosure here: Sean Hawker is a FaceBook friend.  We’re both horror authors. We visit a couple of the same groups on FaceBook and he’s one of those friends with whom I share memes.

Most memes that I find funny I will share on my FaceBook feed.  I’m not particularly worried that people will find my sense of humour outrageous, offensive or warped, so I’ll share some dark and disgusting things. However, occasionally, I’ll come across memes that are excruciatingly offensive and those are often the ones that make me laugh the loudest and I know, if I were to share them on FaceBook, I’d end up in FaceBook jail and probably be an unemployed pariah. 

All too often, Sean is the person who has sent me those memes.

Which is why, reading Sean’s work is exactly like looking at those sick and twisted memes: you know you shouldn’t be enjoying it – but it’s just too clever a concatenation of concepts not to be impressive.

I read Adult Babies back-to-back with Brutal Bigfoot R*pefest and came away from both feeling delightfully soiled and convinced I’m in the presence of a genuine artist.  Sean’s strength is that he can take the most taboo topic and include it in a narrative that is well-paced, eloquently descriptive and wholly original.

In short, if you’re still wondering what’s in the content of those sick and twisted memes, you need to read Sean Hawker.

And, to find out more about Sean’s work, click on either of the images on this post to go directly to his sales page on Godless.